Top 5 Essential Items for Backpacking

Our time in Thailand has regrettably come to an end and, like a Thai driving a minibus, it has hurtled by at an uncomfortable speed. It doesn’t feel like over a month ago that we were fretting about what stuff to pack and what extra gadgets we couldn’t do without. Throwing all caution to the wind, we packed loads of extra things (to the dismay of Katherine’s brother) we thought would help us on the road. Some things have been surprisingly useful, some have barely left our rucksacks. We have come up with a list of the top 5 essential items you must not forget when planning a long trip.


Okay, so at first these items seem pretty obvious, and you might be surprised that these are on this list; ‘duhhhh of course I will take sun cream and mozzy spray to my tropical destination.’ The tropical sun is intensely hot, even behind the clouds, and we’ve both burnt several times even when using sun cream. Mosquitoes are ubiquitous, particularly on the southern islands. They are bastards, they bite and bite and fly around your face at night. Save yourself the hassle and bring spray with you.

The reason these items are on this list is because they’re expensive to pick up on the road. We suggest bringing a few bottles of each, we’ve got through ours very quickly. Although your bag might be heavier to begin with, you will save some money by thinking ahead.

WTW Recommendation: 9/10 – it just makes sense to bring the right protection in advance.


As we’re part of the digital nomad generation, between the two of us we have a lot of items that need charging quite often; phones, iPad, GoPro, Kindles etc. It is essential that we can juice them all in a relatively short space of time. Most hostels give you limited access to electricity points, so to rely on one plug would mean we’d never get them all fully charged.

Why not maximise your charging potential by bringing an extension cord with four extra plug points on it? We have a panel that can charge four UK devices at any one time whilst only using one Thai-to-UK adapter plug we picked up at a Thai market for 60BHT. If you’re not convinced, and you only need to charge one thing, then at least bringing one would make you top dog/King/Queen/Soapstar Superstar of your dorm room.

WTW Recommendation: 10/10 – it’s just something we couldn’t really function effectively without. You can decide what that says about us.


As just mentioned, we have a lot of devices that need charging quite often. The portable charger means that you can charge devices on the go. This is handy for us particularly as we both use our phones and the GoPro often to take photos and videos so we always want these to be charged. Over the past month we have experienced a fair few power cuts in Thailand and this is common throughout South East Asia. Having these power banks means we can keep the devices charged without having to use the mains power, ensuring we don’t miss any captivating photo opportunities.

WTW Recommendation: 8/10 – again we use these practically every day; they’re particularly useful for long or overnight journeys.

A variety of colours and sizes for a variety of uses.

These have been controversial in the backpacking community, but for us they are pretty much lifesaving. Living out of a backpack can be exceptionally frustrating at times, these make life just that little bit more enjoyable. Packing cubes allow you to split everything you are bringing into sections so you know exactly where to find it.

So, when trying to find something in particular, you don’t have to empty your rucksack and rummage through everything on the train, or at 3am when everyone else is asleep, you can simply just find the packing cube and take out the item you are looking for. It helps you to prioritise, organise, and not murder someone. Look, they’re fairly cheap, pretty stylish, and will save you so much hassle. Can you really not afford to have these? 

WTW Recommendation: 10/10 – they’re just so useful, Sam’s suitcase-style rucksack would be a nightmare without them.

We use Dr Beckmann travel wash
We use Dr Beckmann travel wash.

Perhaps not something you would think about bringing with you on your trip. Backpackers generally have that fusty, unwashed smell anyway. Well why not break that habit and give your yellow-stained white tank top a wash? We have with us a small bottle of detergent designed for long-term travel which allows us to wash bits and pieces when we need it, keeping our costs down and our flexibility up.

Thailand is so deeply engrained into the backpacker circuit, that most places have 50BHT-per-kilo laundry services, but this may not be the case worldwide. We have tended to use laundrettes only for larger loads for practical reasons, but the costs soon add up, and 1kg is not a whole lot. Even when we use laundrettes though, we have used our detergent to pre-wash any stains that have crept in.

This thing is so clever.

The washing line is frankly genius. It is compact and fastens between dorm beds, windows, and pretty much any space you can think of.
You don’t need pegs as it has its own system of keeping your clothes on. It is useful for drying our hand washed clothes as well as wet swimsuits and shoes. There are simply no cons to this product.

WTW Recommendation: 7/10 – a lower rating purely because you probably can do without it. We would still recommend it though, very useful.

We hope this list of the top 5 essential items for backpacking has helped you with planning what you think may or may not need on your long trip. These are our essential items after only one month of travelling so, things may change, but so far this collection has helped us greatly and we are happy with our decisions.

Do you have any other cool gadget ideas for travellers?

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If you're looking for a complete, concise, and useful list of essential items to bring travelling with you, follow this link. We think you'll be surprised.

Katherine Pollard

Katherine Pollard

I'm Katherine, I'm 22 and obviously the better half of WTW. I've travelled to a few different places before, including Thailand, Kenya, and Tanzania, and each time has made me realise how much I love seeing new places and making amazing memories. I'm a serial Koala hugger, and you can expect to find me on the hunt for the best Nutella crepes in the world.
Katherine Pollard

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Essential Items for Backpacking

  1. Vyjay Rao Reply

    Practical list. I would add a universal adapter. The electrical wiring/systems vary in many countries and one may need an adapter to plug your device in.

  2. Pingback: We've won the Liebster Award - WhenTwoWander

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